By Alan Ralph | Sep 9 2008Fresh off the plane from the political heart of the US, Alan Ralph explains why memories of his hard-working summer come with no regrets.“WIP is very unique and exciting, you are just given so much exposure, you get to meet so many interesting, experienced people who can give you great advice and you are treated so well”. Business and Law student, Alan Ralph gives WIP a rave review to everyone who quizzes him on his summer experience.A cross-community initiative aiming to strenghen relations between Northern and the Republic of Ireland, the Washington Ireland Program (WIP) is an eight week program based in Washington DC.Irish interns stay with with a host family near the centre of DC, commuting each day to their appointed offices of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, the World Bank, BBC Washington, News Channel 8. Participants are assigned a placements with The Environmental Protection Agency, The Lombardy Cancer Research Unit and a number of people in various offices on Capitol Hill are all offered.With such highly prized work opportunities, it’s not surprising that the application process for the Washington Ireland Program is quite onerous, with a hefty application form, an individual and group interview. Acknowledging that “it is quite difficult to get on the program”, Ralph found that there was a “good bit of competition to actually get picked for the team.”However, once he was chosen, Ralph enjoyed a demanding, yet very rounded experience. Invited to write and deliver public speeches, students also spoke in the Irish and Northern Irish Embassy, in debates with Georgetown University, not to mention speaking to members in Congress.Guest speakers also peppered the students’ experience with the gems of wisdom that they have picked up in US political circles. Such speakers included the “Irish ambassador to the United States and Harold Ickes, who essentially ran Hilary Clinton’s Senate campaign, writers for the Washington Post and New York Times”.WIP doesn’t just focus on Washington high-fliers, and places a lot of emphasis on the basic aim of politics, encouraging students to put something back into the community. Working on ground-level during his final week of summer, Ralph spent time working Habitat for Humanity, a charity that builds low cost housing for people.Summer may not have meant lazy days on a beach for the WIP participants, however it did ofter an intense, yet all-too-rare insight into, the realities that span the political spectrum. Costing €750 for flights to the US capital, Ralph feels that he got a bargain for the experience he had in return. “It is a once in a lifetime opportunity and it really is an amazing experience”.